Top 10 Totally Awesome Artists Inspired by the Valley, plus She Wants Revenge's Valleyheart
She Wants Revenge releases Valleyheart today, the band's third full length release, which sees them submerging themselves in blissful nostalgia. Not for dark '80s sounds as they are unremittingly accused of (though, yes there is still some of that), but for the breeding grounds that made them who they are today: California's San Fernando Valley, where the duo -singer/guitarist Justin Warfield and keyboardist/DJ Adam Bravin (Adam 12)- are both from.
There's still plenty of lyrical edge, brooding beats and odes to dancey influences like Depeche Mode and The Cure here to please fans of their hit "Tear You Apart." But many tracks have a fresh, cinematic, uplifting quality we haven't seen before, particularly "Must Be The One" (the video, which was filmed in the Valley, has a cameo by none other than Deborah Foreman, star of the teen classic, Valley Girl).
The sunny, picture-perfect mostly upper-middle class existence of the Valley, with its shameless consumerism (malls!) and seemingly sheltered bubble (over the hill from big, bad Hollywood) has been the source of musical inspiration before, but usually as something to rebel against, not celebrate. (See our video list at the end of this story).
Inventive, self-directed videos combined with the expanded sonic palette may finally see the band go beyond what naysayers have deemed as derivative since SWR first broke. "We never claimed to be a Goth band, we've always said we were a dark dance band who plays the music live as a four piece rock band," says Warfield. "Only this time it's more rocking and more live, and the dance isn't straight up four on the floor disco beats, it's more break-beat feeling, much like the hip-hop we came up on."
And speaking of hip-hop, we just had to ask: How was it having the undisputed toughest slot -opposite Kanye West- at this past Coachella? "Playing against Kanye was totally daunting and something we weren't sure how we felt about," says Warfield. "In the end, the only drag was that some stooge who was operating the camera on that stage decided to pack up his shit early and head back to L.A., so the live feed was cut after three songs, causing much speculation that the reason we were cut was for me making fun of Kanye. Though I did make a joke or two about Kanye it was totally good natured and coming from a place of a fan having to play up against one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Having said that, if they would have cut us for me poking fun at Kanye for his past outbursts, that would have been the textbook definition of irony and pretty fucking funny."
And! Our Top 10 Artists Inspired by the Valley:
10. She Wants Revenge- Must Be The One
9. Tom Petty- Freefallin'
Shout-outs to Reseda and Ventura Blvd. and a video showing some of the Valley's best known spots make this the ultimate Valley ballad. Interestingly, Petty has said that his record company originally rejected the song, fearing it was too geographically referential. They weren't sure kids in Iowa would get it. But the song was as much about the stereotypes and fallacies of the American Dream as it was about "the vampires walkin' through the Valley."
8. Bad Religion- In The Night
BR formed when they were teens, and their seminal punk recording, How Could Hell be Any Worse, is said to have been inspired by growing up in the decidedly wealthier (Republican populated?) suburbs of Woodland Hills and West Hills. It's safe to assume that their parents' -or neighbors'- conservative politics are at least part of what drove them into the night and onto stages of Hollywood grittiest punk clubs.
7. Dirk Diggler- You've Got The Touch & Feel My Heat
Nirvana, Metallica and The Grateful Dead all recorded at Sound City Recording Studios in Van Nuys, but none rocked as hard (and we mean hard) as porn/wanna-be rock star Dirk Digler did, right? PT Anderson may not be a rockstar, but the film maker is arguably the most famous artist influenced/inspired by his Valley upbringing, utilizing the region's landmarks and locales in both Boogie Nights and Magnolia.
8. Phantom Planet- Galleria
Singer Alex Greenwald explains this one pretty well on his own.
5. The Runaways- California Paradise
Cherie Currie and Joan Jett both grew up in the Valley, but like many reared there, it was Hollywood's hedonism and Malibu's breezes that seduced them musically. This one captures their teenage zeal perfectly, which is why it did not make this list.
4. Jane Wiedlin (with Sparks)- Cool Places
Before joining the Go-Gos, Wieldlin lived in the Valley and went to Taft High School. She was a big fan of the Sparks, and eventually got to do this ebullient duet. Surely, a couple cool places in the Valley inspired it? We don't think it's a coincidence that Sparks' "Angst In My Pants" is on the Valley Girl soundtrack.
3. Michael Jackson- Billie Jean
Before Neverland Ranch (and for a short time after the molestation scandal) Michael Jackson lived in Encino, the compound where his mother and children still reside. In the documentary, Living With Michael Jackson, the King of Pop revealed he wrote Billie Jean after driving down Ventura Blvd.
2. Bing Crosby- San Fernando Valley
He may have never saw a white Christmas there, but the Valley gave Crosby this #1 hit in 1944.
1. Frank & Moon Unit Zappa- Valley Girl
For better or worse, Frank Zappa's ode to Val-speak defines the area and the '80s as well. Thanks to Zappa's vast collection of experimental and arty material, the campy tune -"sung" by daughter Moon Unit- didn't define him or his musical legacy. Still, it was his biggest hit.
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